POST 18: Planting Trees

Today our plan was to plant trees near the water so site so at 9 in the morning we headed off to buy some trees.  Richard, who had come down to meet us was coming as our environmental advisor.  If you remember he had a few projects that he started in Mbo Tu. He is also volunteering for this project because he is passionate about trees and gardens.  Abu, our friend and wildlife specialist also joined us because although he focuses on wildlife he knows alot about plants and trees.  I had $60.00 in my budget and we bought 120 trees like mango, guava, and a whole bunch of others that I am too fried to remember right now.

We headed off the the village and pulled into a cluster of huts where the new women’s collective was meeting us for lunch.  This is where, again, where I felt like I was inside a living history book.  The women came out yelling and throwing a substance on our faces and car.  They greeted us.  Moshi told me that they were so happy to be given the solar chargers as a means for making money on their own.  There was tradition dancing and they kept reaching up to stroke our faces and arms and holding our hands.

After the dancing and yelling they pulled us into a hut and served us lunch.  The lunch food that they had from their meagre crops so it was a real honor to be eating this together.

Afterwards we sat in a circle with the women (and  men joined us after) and Moshi was talking about the importance of trees and how these trees will take time to grow but in the future it will be a way to make money and feed their children and be a source of medicine for the sick.  A singer from the village came down and sang a song as a way for us to get ready for the hard work that lay ahead of us.  The women got up and danced and we started walking to the water source.  At one point I turned around and looked behind me and there were hundreds of people following us.  When we got there the singer did another song while women filled up buckets of water preparing for the planting of the trees.

I really did not realized how insanely dry and hard the land is and when Moshi said it was hard work that lay ahead of us he wash’t kidding.  The dirt is almost like rock and when you shovel the dirt behind you dust fills the air.  Richard had a way to plant where the hole is very very big and you have cow dung (which they had collected the day before) and straw that lines the hole.  The plant is put in below the hole so that it sits in a basin to retain every last drop of water.  I put in a mango tree and Zoe planted and avocado tree.  After words we put in two buckets of water that the women carried in on their heads.

During this time the primary (elementary) students were brought over from the school where Zoe asked them to draw pictures of their environment to take back home (and to use in a project at school).  There were over a hundred kids which I think shocked her but she managed, with Yasinta, to organize them into groups where she gave them crayons and paper.  Zoe continues to amaze me here with the strength that she finds to talk and interact with so many children without knowing the language and culture.  We do alot of laughing and using the few swahili words that we know.

We finally ended the day after planting 5 of the trees.  Yup it took 20 guys digging to get only 5 proper holes done.  We will do more tomorrow.


We can pick and choose the memories that define our life and piece them together like a puzzle.

Many years ago, in the wake of my mother’s death, I traveled to Africa for the first time. Uganda.

Our time to leave Kalagala eventually came, and my family embarked upon a classic Kenyan safari.

The three of us headed for Tanzania where I met Moshi Changai, a pivotal piece to this story.

From Tanzania, we made our way to the island of Zanzibar, a place to pause and reflect, and to write.

We left Zanzibar for Marrakesh, where the sound of Muslim prayers echoed from the speakers.

Life returned to normal—for just a little while. We returned home, and Zoe went back to School.

Fast-forward six years, and once again, Tanzania stood before my daughter and me.

Our destination was Kondoa, but to get there, we had to board a cramped bus like a bunch of sardines.

Before making our way to Cheku, we visited many of the surrounding Irangi villages first.

We drove up the long road dirt road to Cheku village and finally saw the well that had taken so many years.

With the Cheku well confirmed to be real, the time had come to return to Vancouver.

I finally landed in Tanzania, excited to meet Moshi again and the rest of the safari team.

I spent the days before meeting our potential business partner, Ikaji, at the hotel, practicing my Swahili.

By spending so much time at the hotel, I grew close with the girls who worked there.

On our way to snap some shots at Ntomoko falls, we got stuck in the mud, much like how I felt about Ikaji.

One morning, Moshi and I headed to buy trees and I sat and reflected on the situation with Ikaji.

Ikaji was simply not a good fit for this project and we had to decide how to proceed.

To help foster a community around the tours we decided to have a party for the people of Kolo.

The dry season had been especially brutal for the village of Iyoli and water was scarce.

This trip was winding to a close, but before I left, Moshi and took a final, bumpy motorcycle ride.

Once again, Perry Buchan leapt at the opportunity to be part of another water project.

I was back in Kondoa once again, at the same hotel (or at least the one next door).

To help determine how deeply the hole needed to be dug for the Iyoli well, the team conducted a survey.

We went back to Iyoli with a car full of computer equipment, a generator, and people.

With a car full of just about everyone, we headed to Iyoli one last time before leaving, but this time it was for a party.

The time had come to leave. I knew this because I had used my last square of toilet paper.

It took two and a half minutes to walk off the plane into the Turkish airport and breathe the unfamiliar smells.

It was like a fade-in into a movie, one that started with a reunion between two friends.

The next two weeks went by slowly as the drillers dug inch-by-inch toward the depth of 100m.

Initial digging had concluded, but we still had to test the water, build the tower, and dig trenches.

Tower construction began on market day, and led to a lot of people stopping by to watch the work.

Brick-by-handmade-brick, the tower went up. Soon, it would hold two water tanks and solar panels.

One morning in Kondoa town invited me over to play music at his house behind the hotel.

My worst fear, and I’m embarrassed to say but I will anyway, was having to go pee in the bush.

Today, I met Bar from Innovation: Africa - the woman who helped bring this project on.

I debated whether I even wanted to share this part of this story, but I will.

A few days later, work resumed at the project site.

Despite the recent setback, life continued—progress continued.

Things that were once green were starting to turn brown.

In many ways, our engineer was crazy and messed up.

Moshi, Juma, and I were at the site every day to make sure that things were getting done.

Water began flowing to the different distribution points throughout Iyoli.

This is my story. The stories I tell are the ones that hold me up, that keep me going, that feed me hope.

Each night when I drink a glass of water, I often think of Moshi, and the memories wash over me.